Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Mosaic Making

I mentioned in a recent post that I had some exciting projects on the go. This is one of them. For several weeks now I have been going to my boys' school for an occasional session of mosaic making. A group of mums, under the direction of a very sweet and skilled artist and fellow parent, are making a large mosaic of the school's badge. I have never done any mosaic work before but am always interested to try something new and creative and I am really enjoying this project. It is quite different from working with paper, and whilst I am happy sitting working at my desk at home, with the mosaic work I find that I need to stand so that I can see exactly what I am working on and to get an overall feel of the image. The girl's face, in orange, is the part of the school badge that I have created. We all took different areas of the canvas the first time that we met and have stuck with them ever since. It will be interesting to see how our various techniques (for want of a better word - we are all beginners at this) look together when the badge is finally completed. In the meantime we have quite a lot of the white background area still to fill, so the end is not quite yet in sight!
Though we have dreadful weather today and I have been thoroughly soaked whilst out and about this morning, the last time that I drove home from school after spending time working on the mosaic, I parked the car and looked up to see this fabulous orange tree in my garden looking amazing against the bright blue winter sky. I happened to have my camera with me because I had taken the above photos of the mosaic work, so felt compelled to snap away and capture the moment. Sadly the tree doesn't look so lovely today and I dare say that a few of those tasty oranges may well be on the floor by now.
Tomorrow night sees the end of 2009. Wishing you all a wonderful, happy and colourful New Year's Eve. See you next year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Seasons Greetings

I know that in the world of blogging there is very little unveiling going on at the moment, whilst people keep their latest pieces under wraps before they are given as Christmas presents. Obviously that is not an issue for me and I am happy to be able to show you some of the latest handmade cards that I have created.
Above, you can see a card for a soon-to-be 5 year old who loves playing football, drawing and colouring and wants to begin karate lessons. I was excited to be able to incorporate all of his hobbies into the one little character. His Grandma, who ordered the card, seemed amused and delighted with it.
This collection of cards were all sent to the same customer's family and friends in the UK. From the top downwards, a 60th birthday card for a lady which specifically had to have a big hat with flowers on it; an anniversary card with colourful hearts; a cute card for a 3 year old boy with a toy car and building blocks on it, and finally, a sweet card for a 5 year old girl.
Whilst the Jewish people worldwide have already celebrated Hanukkah and have now returned to our respective school and work places, I know that for many of you Christmas is rapidly approaching. I wanted to take this opportunity to wish my customers and friends out there happy holidays and a safe and exciting start to 2010. Thank you to all of you who have supported me and my blogging adventure throughout the year. I have enjoyed composing each and every one of my posts, and appreciate every comment and email that I receive.
Seasons Greetings and my very best wishes from Israel.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Nahal Kinah

After eating rather too many of the delicious Hanukkah latkes and sufganiyot described in my last post, a day out hiking in the fresh air was just what we all needed during the recent holidays. Friends asked us to join them for a ramble in Nahal Kinah, the Kinah Stream, in the southern Judean desert, near the city of Arad, in the south of Israel. On a beautiful winter's day we hiked along the riverbed, among steep cliffs and caves. The waterfalls in the area are dry most of the year round, only when it rains is there water, but then it can run over the falls in torrents, carrying with it stones, rocks and boulders. This action has caused incredible layers to be formed in the rock, very similar to those that we recently saw a little further south, in Mitspe Ramon. The boys were busy with their friends most of the day, and as usual, completed the 8 km walk, and climb, much more speedily than us! However, we all had a wonderful day and, like always, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of a day out in the desert. Though very little work was completed whilst the boys were on holiday from school, apart from a bunch of Christmas cards here and there, it was nice to find my art still getting a little exposure through a number of Etsy Treasuries and blogs. FantasTshirts kindly included my Little Bear Papercut Picture (above, bottom row, on the left) in a sweet collection of child related pieces and then another of my papercut pictures, this time one of my penguins (below, bottom row, on the right), appeared in a lovely winter treasury called 'Purples and Blues', created by Sew Stacy. Many thanks to both ladies for displaying my work.
Etsy Chai, a Jewish community team which promotes Jewish and non-Jewish artists handmade Judaica on Etsy, ran a piece all about the game of dreidel during Hanukkah and illustrated the article with a photo of my Hanukkah cards amongst other Hanukkah related work. Once again it was exciting to see my work there (below).
Whilst the rest of the world is preparing for Christmas, here in Israel we have returned to work, now that our holiday season has ended. I have several exciting projects in hand. See you in a few days when I have yet more to show you.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Happy Hanukkah

The Hanukkah celebrations have begun and this evening we lit the third candle on our Hanukkiah. Hanukkah, or The Festival of Lights, is an eight day holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in the 2nd century BCE. The festival has a number of traditions and customs associated with it.
We light the Hanukkiah, or Menorah, to remind us of a great miracle that happened long ago. After the Maccabees (the Jewish fighters) defeated the Syrians and chased them out of Jerusalem, the Jews wanted to light the Temple Menorah again. But there was one problem; the oil in the Temple was only enough for one night, yet it continued to burn for eight full days, the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. When we light the Menorah it is to remember this miracle.
Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil. Sufganiyot are jam-filled doughnuts that are fried and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.
As a part of tradition, we also play a game called dreidel on Hanukkah. The dreidel is a 4-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side. The four letters which appear on the four corners of a dreidel allude to the miracle of Hanukkah. They spell out: Nes (N-miracle), Gadol (G-great), Haya (H-happened) and Po (P-here, meaning in Israel).
All these traditions give significant meaning and importance to the festival, and add a little weight on the scales too!
Quite appropriately on Hanukkah, I was delighted to see my name ‘up in lights’ during The Festival of Lights. Etsy Chai, an online Jewish community team which promotes Jewish and non-Jewish artists handmade Judaica on Etsy, featured an interview with me. If you are interested in reading a little bit more about me and my work, please click here.
To those of you celebrating this fun festival, I wish you a very happy candle-lighting, dreidel-spinning, latke-eating Hanukkah!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Beitar Jerusalem and a Bar Mitzvah

Quite a number of custom-made cards have been winging their way to some happy celebrants recently. After all the running around, with trips to the north and south of the country, I have been knuckling down and getting on with some creative work.
The card above, showing a young Beitar Jerusalem supporter, was requested for a young man due to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah. I was asked to create a card connecting the fact it was his Bar Mitzvah, but also showing his love for his favourite football team. I hope that this illustration of the young man in his yellow and black kit, holding a football and wearing his kippah, or skullcap, fit the bill nicely.
These cards were all ordered by the same customer who had several birthdays of relatives and friends in the UK that she wished remember. Amongst the collection you can see a card for 'Louis' who drives an iconic London black cab; an 80th birthday card for a supporter of both Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United; a card for 'David' who is a motorbike enthusiast.I have mentioned before that I sometimes participate in a local women's networking group. Some time ago I met a lady at one of the meetings who runs Fun in Jerusalem, a website that is a great source for information on kid’s activities in Jerusalem. She recently contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in having my work included in a Hanukkah feature about interesting and unique gifts for kids. Above, you can see a screenshot of the page featuring my Hanukkah cards and Treasure Boxes. The extra publicity was appreciated and it is always nice to have my work featured alongside great company.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Twins

A friend called and asked me to make a birthday card for her twin sister who lives in England. Her sister and her husband are keen Salsa dancers and so my friend described what the couple look like and asked me to create a card showing them dancing together. I made the card, below, and my friend seemed delighted with it.
A few days later I received an e-mail from my friend's husband. He had seen the birthday card for his sister-in-law and was therefore reminded to order a card from me for his wife! His e-mail read, "M. has her birthday next week (as you know because you did her twin sister's card!)." This time the requested theme was netball, and after a little probing, I found out that she plays in the Wing Attack position, so was able to personalise her card that little bit further by adding the correct letters to her red bib.
I was super impressed that her husband ordered a customised card for his wife. It has to be said that the majority of my customers are female and even my own husband generally doesn't have a clue when his own family's birthdays are (except for mine, of course!). Maybe marrying a twin does give this particular husband a clear and major advantage!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

North and South

We have had a run of busy weekends lately, and though it can be quite exhausting at times and sometimes all you want to do is get up late and even perhaps stay in your pyjamas all day, each and every time we have been out we have ended up having a wonderful day! Two weeks ago we headed north, to the lush green Galilean scenery of Gush Halav and the Bar'am Forest, and last weekend we were southbound, to Ein Gedi, an oasis located west of the Dead Sea, close to Masada and the caves of Qumran. The landscape in both places was incredibly different, something that never ceases to amaze me in the tiny country that Israel is.
The photos above allow you a glimpse of the beautiful scenery we enjoyed up north. We started our hike at Gush Halav, known by the Arabs as el-Jish, or simply Jish, and now a Maronic Christian village. It's first inhabitants arrived approximately 5,000 years ago and the place became renowned during the time of the Second Temple (about 2,000 years ago), when there was an ancient Jewish centre there. Next to the village are the remains of a synagogue from the Roman period, with two rows of columns, the remains of a roof, and a pillar with an ancient inscription.
We continued our way up stream along Nahal Zivon, where we saw pretty flowering saffron plants, or karkom, and olives being harvested from the rows of trees, then climbed uphill through the shady Bar'am Forest. We ended the day with a well-earned picnic, as the sun began to set and, though it had been a lovely day for walking, it was getting to be a little too cool to sit outside. Last weekend we were invited to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of the son of good friends of ours at the Ein Gedi Field School. Ein Gedi is an oasis in the desert, situated on the shore of the Dead Sea – the lowest place on Earth - at the feet of majestic mountains and cliffs, and is the place where David hid while being pursued by King Saul.
The Bar Mitzvah celebrations began with an easy hike along the spring-fed stream of Nahal David, surrounded by flowing waterfalls and lush vegetation – a sharp contrast to the surrounding desert. We were lucky enough to see several ibex and the hyrax, prominent residents of the oasis, along the way, and the panoramic views allowed us glimpses of the Dead Sea.
The Field School proved to be a wonderful choice for the weekends celebrations, located on a nearby hilltop overlooking the desert area. The ibex were happy to graze amongst us, and a gap between Shabbat synagogue services allowed us time for a short climb up to a nearby ancient ma'ayan, or spring.
This weekend we intend to be at home and do very little, though the memories of our recent travels make the early starts that these trips require more than worthwhile.
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